While President Bashar Al Assad’s government in Syria is close to winning over the last major rebel-held region of Eastern Ghouta, people across the world have expressed anger and sympathy over the videos and pictures of Syrian civilians caught in the crossfire. Speaking to The Sunday Guardian on his first visit to India, Syria’s Deputy Minister Prof Dr Hayan Ahmad Salman addresses the backlash the Syrian government faces for the ongoing civil war; President Assad’s efforts to rebuild Syria and India’s cooperation for the same. Excerpts:
Q: You are travelling to India to enhance India-Syria partnership. What are the key characteristics of the cooperation?
A: The co-operation between the Indian and Syrian governments is in three key areas, namely medicine, education and trade. Exchange of experts for development in different industries has taken place. Indian institutions are helping Syrians gain expertise in technical fields. We are involved with the likes of BHEL and some other Indian government agencies who have been aiding Syria. I can assure you that the partnership between India and Syria is strong and has a confident future. We have also been supported by BRICS nations, for which we are thankful.
Q: The cooperation between India and Syria is strong but the mood of the common people is different. Earlier this month, Indians had gathered outside the Syrian Embassy to register their protest against the civilian deaths that are a consequence of the civil war. Does the Syrian government feel the pressure?
A: To all the people who protested outside our embassy in New Delhi, I invite you to visit Syria. We are well aware of the smear campaign against the Syrian government that is ongoing on social media. The people who are involved in this are being selective with what they post on social media. There are around 700 channels that are anti-Syrian and are funded by the Gulf. The countries that were against Syria in the beginning started to change their narrative when they saw what happened at Charlie Hebdo. The Syrian government is fighting the terrorists who have veiled themselves under religion. Countries across the world know now that Syria’s fight against ISIS was right.
Q: Syrians in rebel-held areas have spoken about accepting President Assad’s government so that the civil war could come to an end. How does President Assad intend to reconcile with the civilians who have been fighting him for the last eight years?
A: The government does not differentiate between Syrians. The solutions are already on the table. We are saying that the countries who are sponsoring terrorism in Syria, should take their hands off Syria. President Assad has reached out to people who have given up arms. The government has helped people from the areas that were held by the rebels and are now liberated. The Syrian government has already established a separate ministry for affected people with the purpose of rebuilding the nation. The only problem that the Syrian government faces is that the terrorists in Syria are supported by other countries.
Q: You are a political and strategic analyst as well. What are your views on the phenomenon that Rojava has come out to be?
A: In 2002, President Assad had visited North Syria and addressed the concerns of the people there, especially the Kurds. That visit became the basis for the solutions that we would use to resolve the issues of the people there. We had already started our process of reconciliation based on some basic requirements, for example, that no political party should be created based on religion, ethnicity etc., the Syrian territory should be maintained and they will hold responsibility to the Syrian government. Many of the parties in the North have been saying that we should support the Syrian government and reconcile. We have faith that they will come back. The armed forces will give up their weapons against the Syrian government and this could be seen as a phenomenon of Rojava.